Four janitors cleaning a Wells Fargo bank early Saturday morning were arrested after allegedly prying open a locked teller drawer and taking more than $400 in cash, police said.
Garden Grove Police Lt. John Woods said the janitors, three of whom are employees of the Peerless Building Maintenance Co. of North Hollywood, were being held on suspicion of grand theft.
It was the second time in as many months that a janitorial crew was suspected of stealing money from a bank while cleaning it up, Woods said.
In early December, police were alerted by alarm to a burglary at the Golden West Cities Federal Credit Union on Stanford Avenue, Woods said. A description by eyewitnesses led to the arrests a few minutes later of a maintenance crew.
Charged in Saturday's incident were Egidio Veliz, 40, of Anaheim, the foreman of the crew; his brother, Joseluis, 42, who reportedly started work recently after emigrating from Guatemala; Dora Galeano, 44, of Pacoima, and Silverio Gutierrez, 22, an employee of another company.
Woods said a patrol car was called at 3:48 a.m. to investigate a possible burglary at the Harbor Boulevard bank. When they arrived at the scene, Woods said, police found the four janitors cleaning the inside of the building.
"They were going about their business," Woods said.
But officers investigating the bank lobby noticed that the teller drawer had been pried open, causing an alarm to go off at the police station, Woods said.
Officers reported finding cash stashed in the personal belongings of one of the suspects, Woods said. He would not elaborate.
"This blows me away," said Tim Tuttle, owner of Peerless Building Maintenance, when informed of the arrests. "This is unbelievable."
Tuttle described the Veliz brothers as good workers who have never been in any trouble either with the law or with the company. "That's why this surprises me. They are what I would consider meek people."
Tuttle said the Veliz brothers and Galeano had finished their duties and offered to help Gutierrez complete his work at the bank.
"That was not our account," Tuttle said, adding that his crew was not authorized to enter any bank that was not under contract with Peerless.
He was confident that the Veliz brothers are innocent of any wrongdoing.
"They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.
Woods said all four suspects denied having anything to do with the attempted robbery. A translator was called in to interview the crew members in Spanish before they were transported to County Jail, he said.
But, Woods said, "even after the property (cash) was recovered, they wouldn't talk to us."
Woods said investigators were trying to determine on Saturday which maintenance company employed Gutierrez.